Rapid reactions: Depleted Cardinals get impressive road win vs. Cowboys

Jan 2, 2022, 6:59 PM | Updated: Jan 3, 2022, 1:12 pm
Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, and Byron Murphy Jr. (7) celebrate after an NFL foo...

Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, and Byron Murphy Jr. (7) celebrate after an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. The Cardinals won 25-22. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

(AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Cardinals may have clinched a playoff spot in Week 16, but it took until Week 17 to give Arizona its 11th victory of the season.

Even with 10 key players out due to injury or COVID-19, the Cardinals were able to come up with an impressive 25-22 road win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The win brings Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray to 9-0 in his football career when his team plays at AT&T Stadium.

The victory also keeps the Cardinals’ chances of winning the NFC West alive.

And should Arizona beat the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams lose to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18, the Cardinals would win the division and host a playoff game for the first time since 2015.

Arizona Sports’ hosts, reporters and editors share their thoughts on the Cardinals’ Week 17 win:

Vince Marotta, co-host of Bickley & Marotta: I’ll be honest — with as short-handed as the Arizona Cardinals were heading into a Week 17 matchup at Dallas, I didn’t think they had much of a chance to win.

Wrong again, Marotta.

No D.J. Humphries. No DeAndre Hopkins. No Markus Golden. No James Conner.

None of it mattered as the Cardinals brewed up their most mature win of the season, beating a red-hot Cowboys team 25-22.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was exactly what the recently reeling Cardinals needed — a taste of success. They made the Cowboys one-dimensional on offense (39 passes, 17 runs for 45 yards), and that’s been a key to success (especially on the road) this season.

Most importantly, they took care of the football. Kyler Murray didn’t throw a pick against a defensive unit that prides itself on forcing turnovers, including 25 interceptions on the season. The only play that could have been challenged, a Chase Edmonds run late in the fourth quarter where the ball came loose, couldn’t be. Why? Because head coach Kliff Kingsbury basically tricked Mike McCarthy into using a timeout early in the second half.

Facing a 4th-and-5 from the Dallas 8, Kingsbury kept his offense on the field. McCarthy assumed that Arizona would line up for a field goal, and didn’t have the right personnel employed. They burned the timeout. Matt Prater then came on to boot a 26-yarder to stretch the Cardinals’ lead to 22-7 with four minutes to go in the third quarter. McCarthy used two other timeouts before the Edmonds “fumble” and didn’t have any left to challenge before the two-minute warning.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph called a great game, dialing up pressure against Dak Prescott and keeping the Cowboys signal caller off balance all day. Isaiah Simmons had the biggest defensive play of the day when his relentless pursuit of Prescott forced a fumble recovered by Dennis Gardeck early in the fourth quarter.

The win keeps the Cardinals as possible NFC West Champs — they need to beat Seattle next week and hope that the desperate 49ers (they need a win for a playoff berth) can knock off the Rams.

But regardless, the Cardinals won their eighth road game of the season, joining a very small group of teams to accomplish that. Going back 20 years or so, four of the last five teams to win eight road games in a single regular season have gone to the Super Bowl.

Just sayin’.
John Gambadoro, co-host of Burns & Gambo: This game would have meant so much more had the Ravens not choked at home against the Rams. But either way, the Cardinals needed a win in the worst way after suffering three straight losses and handing the division lead back to L.A.

They got it by playing a pretty good all-around football game. They got the early lead, got up by two scores, forced a huge turnover late and put the game away with a back-breaking drive that killed the final 4:42 of the clock. Good win, gain some momentum, have a chance to feel good about themselves for a week and play next week for a chance to still win the division should the Rams lose to San Francisco and Arizona beats Seattle.

This win doesn’t erase what was a late-season collapse but it does temporarily get the team back on track. And they played this game with no Rondale Moore, James Conner, Marco Wilson and Jordan Phillips — as well as DeAndre Hopkins. Antoine Wesley showed Cardinals fans why there was no need to reach out to Larry Fitzgerald — he had two touchdowns among his four catches.

Kyler gave the Cardinals the mistake-free game they desperately needed from their leader — passing for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions and adding nine carries for 44 yards to ease the burden on Chase Edmonds in the rushing attack with no Conner. Kliff went for a 4th-and-goal and got the touchdown but maybe more importantly he forced Dallas to take a timeout early in the second half when he had both Kyler and Matt Prater on the field in what would end up being a field goal of 26 yards that pushed the lead to 22-7.

I did not like going for two early in the third quarter but it did not come back to haunt them. All in all, a good hard-earned victory for Arizona.

Dave Burns, co-host of Burns & Gambo: A game filled with so many moments, so much stuff to talk about and it might have come down to a possession where nothing happened. At least, nothing on the scoreboard.

After the touchdown pass to Amari Cooper and the two-point conversion, Dallas was down by a field goal. A quick three-and-out would have given the Cowboys a great chance to tie the game or walk it off with a touchdown. Kyler and Co. got the ball back with just under five minutes left in the game and forcefully denied Dallas access to the ball for the rest of the game. Four first downs; two on Kyler Murray runs, one on a Murray pass to Zach Ertz and one on an 11-yard run by Chase Edmonds put this game away in a style reminiscent of games earlier this season. Dallas would never see the ball again. It was similar to game-sealing drives against the Rams, Browns and in particular the 49ers, when a seven-play drive wasted away the final four minutes of a one-possession game.

The Cardinals used a vintage performance from Kyler — in which his ability to run the ball was essential — and the gutsy play out of a likely banged up Chase Edmonds, a gutsy decision by Kliff Kingsbury on a fourth-down fake punt, a hell of a helmet catch by Jonathan Ward and some D-Hop like action out of Antoine Wesley in the end zone. Vance Joseph coached up a depleted defense masterfully and a Cowboys team that was the talk of the NFL last week might have just shown that their recent run of success was more about the schedule and less about them.

Mostly the Cards can start to rebuild their confidence as they gear up for the playoffs. There hasn’t been much to celebrate lately even in the midst of clinching a playoff spot but maybe now that changes. Especially with the possibility that their opponent in the playoffs will be the team they just beat in a building where Kyler Murray has still never lost.

Tyler Drake, Cardinals reporter and editor: Now that looked like the Cardinals team we grew accustomed to seeing early on this season.

Despite once again shooting themselves in the foot with another opening-drive penalty, the Cardinals responded and handed a solid L to the Cowboys in a playoff-like atmosphere. I said at the beginning of the season that Arizona had the talent to win 11 games, with the potential of 12. Here we are.

While Kyler Murray deserves a ton of credit for picking up his ninth win at AT&T Stadium over the course of his football playing career after putting up 263 yards and two touchdowns on 68.4% passing, my hat goes off the a depleted Arizona defense.

Up against a dynamo like Dak Prescott and a tough Dallas offense, Arizona dug in without key contributors like linebacker Markus Golden, cornerback Marco Wilson and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. After putting up an average of 32.8 points per game over their last four games entering play Sunday, the Cowboys were held to 22 points.

The Cardinals needed — emphasis on needed — to right the ship over these last two games before the postseason showed up. There’s obviously one last game to be played, but a win like that can send a jolt of confidence into a team. Another strong showing over Seattle and Arizona’s playoff outlook appears that much better. It’s all about getting hot at the right time, right?

Jake Anderson, editor: Wow. Wow. Wow. What a win by the Arizona Cardinals.

In a week where the Cardinals were missing a lot of key players, Arizona showed up ready to play in what could be a potential playoff matchup in just two weeks’ time.

The Cardinals were without the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, James Conner, Rondale Moore, D.J. Humphries, Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard, Markus Golden, Marco Wilson and Robert Alford due to injuries or being on the COVID-19 list. You could also add J.J. Watt to that list.

However, the return of center Rodney Hudson proved to be the difference-maker many thought it would be, as it allowed Max Garcia to move back to guard, giving the Cardinals an improvement at both positions. Arizona’s pass protection was vastly improved, with Kyler Murray only getting sacked once on the day and throwing two touchdown passes to Antoine Wesley on 263 yards passing at a 68% clip (26-for-38).

Two other factors that contributed to the 11th W on the season for the Cardinals were keeping a golden goose egg in the giveaway department – making it two straight games without a turnover – and Matt Prater’s four made field goals. After missing two FGs and a PAT last week with two different holders, the Arizona kicker hit all four of his field goal attempts and one PAT to provide 15 points for the Cardinals in the game.

The win keeps Arizona alive in the NFC West division title race, as only a Cardinals win over the Seahawks and Rams loss to the 49ers in Week 18 would bring a playoff game to State Farm Stadium in Glendale. The victory also puts Murray at 9-0 in his football career when playing at AT&T Stadium, so perhaps playing the Cowboys on the road again in the postseason might bode well for the Cardinals.

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Rapid reactions: Depleted Cardinals get impressive road win vs. Cowboys